A stack of information is concealed on the VIN plate – if you know how to read it.
The vehicle Identification plate is arguably the most important item to be inspected, even before you look at the engine or the mileage or the tyres. Inspect the VIN plate carefully. Are the rivets black and intact? Does the plate look original? If it looks as if it has been disturbed, look in the service history and check for repairs to the front valance. Then inspect the other identical numbers: one stamped on a plate on the top of the fascia visible through the windscreen, and the other beneath a plastic cover on the vehicle floor beside the drivers seat. All of the numbers must tally exactly – if not walk away. If the VIN plate has been disturbed, be sure to check under the vehicle floor beneath the drivers seat for signs of disturbance to the original PVC underseal, the whole panel on which the number is stamped might have been cut out of a different car and inserted into this one.
You may also like to check the engine number, which should be the last two letters and the five numeric digits of the VIN number and should be visible on the front left hand side of the engine. If the engine number is different, it indicates that the engine is a replacement, and the separate engine number should be shown on the vehicle log book (V5 document)
But the VIN plate looks okay. What else can it tell you? Well, everything. When and in which factory it was built, the body style, engine type, interior trim colour and body colour, and even the rear axle ratio is there for you. With a simple subtraction it can tell you the maximum weight (mass) of a trailer or caravan that it can legally tow. (Gross tow mass – gross vehicle mass)
As you look at the VIN plate you will first notice that the characters are all embossed from the back of the plate. This makes it much more difficult to alter a number than the old dye-stamp method. Then compare your VIN plate with the details shown below. If the car is claimed to be in the original paint, for example, the colour code should match the exterior colour. Even if the VIN plate is perfect and all the numbers match, check the code for the body style – if you see a saloon and it shows the letters GN it should be an estate, and you know it’s a ringer. If the drive letter is E the car was originally built for the European market and should be LHD – does the service history show this? It won’t, because the ringer has transferred a plate from a wrecked Scorpio onto this one, probably stolen. And if the gearbox letter is an N and the car is a manual – there’s that bell ringing.
And if you’re not sure of the engine look for the code – that will tell you whether the car should be a 2L or 2.3L, an 8-valve or a 16V.
So we have the theory – let’s use it to read a real plate – mine.
If we read down the left hand small column of boxes we have a Right Hand Drive (F), 24V V6 (BO) automatic A4LDE (N) with an axle ration of 3,64 (3) and interior trim in Pumice (the D of DB)
The exterior colour is Ash Black introduced in 1994. (V4)
Now the column of wide boxes from the top. The Type Approval code (02211T) is of little interest except to governments and MOT testing centres.
As we expect, the VIN number shows that the Scorpio was built by Ford Werke in Germany (WFO). We would expect a G next for GN, but we have the N instead for the first letter of the body style. Then there are the two constant XXs.
Then we have another letter showing that the car was built by Ford Werke in Germany (G) and the plant was Cologne (A) The next letter shows that the model should be a Scorpio (G) and the next is the second letter of the model, N for estate. The last two letters show the date of manufacture, October 1995 (SU). I have blanked the five numeric digits which follow, for obvious reasons.
The simple deduction of the gross weight 2235Kg from the max towing weight 4235kg shows that the maximum permissible weight of a trailer or caravan is 2000Kg. The maximum load on the axles is shown as 1050kg for the front and 1230Kg for the rear.
The bottom line of the VIN plate shows, from the left, a repeat of the car and version, Scorpio estate GN and the homologation year, R (1994) The second batch of numbers shows the full engine code (BOB) followed by the version (2). The last number is a code which no-one can explain yet!
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